Davis County students could have a longer-than-expected summer vacation this year if teachers do not receive a cost-of-living raise as part of their contract settlement now under discussion.
Davis Education Association officials say they are seriously considering calling for a teachers strike this fall if a cost-of-living raise is not agreed to by district officials. Association officials have taken an increasingly hard line on issues this past year, and it appears they are serious about the pay raise, something teachers have not seen for two years in Davis County.District officials hold out little hope that a cost-of-living raise can be accommodated in the upcoming budget. The preliminary budget is set for release June 7 and should include money for pay increases related to additional training and schooling and time in the district. An across-the-board pay increase is not considered possible with the limited funding approved by the Legislature, district officials contend. The Legislature approved no increase in the basic funding unit and approved funding for new growth at a level many educators believe will not be adequate to cover actual growth.
Beth Beck, DEA president, said the decision to follow a hard-line approach responded to a grass-roots groundswell that started with a meeting of faculty representatives. She said the representatives were angry at the treatment they have received, especially with increasing class loads, and are demanding some kind of compensation.
"This came from the ground up and not from leadership," Beck said. "I think we are going to see some kind of job action; just what it will be is not yet clear."
Most likely is a suggestion to suspend contract negotiations until after the scheduled June 15 special session of the Legislature. Beck said the Legislature should consider using part of the projected $100 million budget surplus to aid education needs, including the same 2.5 percent pay increase that is being promised to other state employees. She said the pay increase would take $18 million statewide. She said the Legislature should also consider restoring $4 million in previously approved spending for textbooks and supplies but which has not been distributed because of anticipated shortfalls.
Initial negotiations with the school district, however, have included a request for a 4.3 percent cost-of-living increase. DEA officials have suggested that the district consider cutting programs and increasing class sizes, if necessary, to provide the pay raise. They also insist, however, that any program cuts or other changes made to accommodate the raise be visible so that the public is aware of what is happening. They contend past cuts have been made in ways not generally visible to the public because of the negative effect they had on students.
The association is also considering asking teachers to quit subsidizing classroom efforts by removing all teacher-owned materials, including posters and other teacher aids, to give the public a better idea of just how poorly education has been funded. Also, informational picketing before and after school is being considered. This is intended to give teachers an opportunity to tell parents what is happening.
Strict adherence to contract requirements is also being pushed. Teachers will be asked to eliminate work not specifically included in their contracts. This means they would come to school on time and leave on time - no staying late or coming early to assist students with tutoring or to conduct parent conferences. The DEA said this would mean no more spending of teacher money on classroom aids and teachers no longer taking work home at night. Teacher conferences would occur within the school day and would not be adjusted to accommodate the public.
If demands are not met, a fall walkout will be seriously considered, the DEA said.
Teachers are being asked to respond in writing to the various options so that the DEA can assess support. An earlier survey showed more than 90 percent support of the demand for increased pay, even if it means increased class loads.
The DEA also asked the district for a hiring freeze, pending the outcome of negotiations, in an effort to emphasize the concern for a pay raise. Beck said the responses are still being assessed and will eventually affect decisions concerning contract negotiations.